For Individuals,For Plan Sponsors,Custom

New MissionSquare Research Institute Report Reveals Insights on Young Public Service Workers

Majority of Workers Under 35 Express Positive Job Morale, But Financial Stress Persists

September 27, 2023

A groundbreaking report by MissionSquare Research Institute sheds light on the experiences of younger public service employees. The findings indicate that most individuals aged 35 and under (64%) hold positive morale regarding their jobs, expressing satisfaction with their job security, community service, and the quality of their colleagues. Moreover, the majority (70%) believe that their benefits compensation is competitive in the labor market.

However, the report underscores that younger public service workers face financial challenges and high levels of stress. Over three-quarters (76%) report feeling significantly or somewhat stressed in the past six months, with personal finances (61%) and work/career (58%) being the primary stressors.

These findings are detailed in a new research report, 35 and Under in the Public Sector: Why Younger Workers Enter and Why They Stay (or Don't). Read the research.

A webinar is scheduled for Thursday, October 12th at 2:00 PM ET to review the research. Register here.

Watch a video highlighting key survey results.

Rivka Liss-Levinson, PhD, MissionSquare Research Institute Senior Research Manager

stated, "As state and local governments grapple with attracting and retaining the next generation of public service employees, this survey identifies areas where public employers excel and areas where improvement is needed. Leaders who can address the specific needs of workers under 35 will have a competitive advantage in workforce development and retention. The research reveals that younger workers are motivated by a desire to serve their communities and value inclusive workplaces. However, these factors don't diminish the importance of higher pay, which remains a stress-inducing issue and a retention challenge."

Other key findings include:

  • Top priorities for respondents include workplaces that contribute to community improvement (67%), strong team dynamics (65%), intellectual engagement, and alignment with personal values (both 64%).
  • Factors that initially attracted respondents to their current public service jobs include job security (32%), work/life balance (29%), health insurance, and job satisfaction (both 28%).
  • While 70% believe their benefits compensation is competitive, only 53% think their wage compensation is.
  • The majority (70%) consider their debt level problematic, with 22% viewing it as a major problem, and only 7% reporting no debt.
  • 77% acknowledge the need to save more for retirement, citing affordability, competing savings priorities, and debt as the primary obstacles.
  • Nearly half (48%) are highly likely to recommend a public service career to friends or family, and 46% plan to stay in public service until retirement.
  • Words like caring, compassionate, empathetic, and understanding are most frequently used to describe an ideal public sector worker.

This report is based upon a nationally representative online survey of 1,004 state and local government employees aged 35 and under conducted by Greenwald Research in March and April 2023. The survey assessed motivations for working in the public sector, attitudes about current finances and financial outlook, views on employer benefits, thoughts on retirement, morale and job satisfaction, and retention issues.

MissionSquare Research Institute promotes excellence in state and local government and other public service organizations to attract and retain talented employees. The organization identifies leading practices and conducts research on retirement plans, health and wellness benefits, workforce demographics and skill set needs, labor force development, and topics facing the not-for-profit industry and education sector. MissionSquare Research Institute brings together leaders and respected researchers. More information and access to research and publications are available at

Return to top